In 2018, the greatest rivalry in sports has escalated to the highest level it has been at in years, punctuated by the Fenway Park brawl started by Joe Kelly and Tyler Austin last month (by the way, the photo of Kelly on Austin’s back preparing to slug him is now framed and hanging on a wall in my living room). The Boston-New York bad blood has been revived, and ever since that three-game series at Fenway last month, round two has most likely been marked on the calendar for both Sox and Yanks fans.
Round two takes place this week, on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at Yankee Stadium, and as if there wasn’t already enough drama between these two clubs, they are coming into this series separated in the AL East standings by just a single game. The Red Sox are at 25-9, and the red hot Yankees are at 24-10 – having roared right back into the first place shadow by winning 15 of their last 16. Now the Sox, who were scorching hot immediately out of the gate but have since cooled off a bit, are tasked with stopping the New York juggernaut in a three-game set at the “House of Pain.”
Honestly, though, it’s more poetic for Yankees fans than it is for Red Sox fans. For the Boston fans at this moment in time, it could be somewhat terrifying. The Yankees are clicking at the plate, especially shortstop Didi Gregorius, who has come out of nowhere to lead the team with 10 homers, ahead of the power bats Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez. They’ve wiped the floor with most of their opponents over their last 16 games, losing just one to the defending world champion Houston Astros.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, have recently made winning games seem like a chore. They’ve been winning just enough to maintain first place in the AL East, but the last two weeks haven’t exactly been ideal. The starting pitchers, which were basically untouchable to start the season, have become relatively shaky. David Price has been in a rut, while Eduardo Rodriguez and Drew Pomeranz have rejoined the rotation and have just been inconsistent at best.
Even Chris Sale has shown minor glimpses of it, but he spends most of his time pitching like a god concealed in human flesh, blowing away hitters with blazing fastballs and racking up the strikeouts, so nobody has even really noticed.
Which brings us to an unfortunate point about this series: the Red Sox are about to begin a three-game series against the Yankees in the Bronx, and Sale just pitched in the team’s previous game. He tossed seven innings, allowing one run on four hits with 12 strikeouts (and 31 fantasy points for yours truly) as the Sox made easy work of the Rangers in a 6-1 victory, but now he’s going to be completely unavailable to start against the Yankees. And considering the Yanks have won 15 of their last 16 games, Boston could very well be wishing it had saved Sale for this series.
The Red Sox hitters, meanwhile, are going to be dealing with Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, and CC Sabathia, while the Sox will be sending Pomeranz, Price and former Cy Young winner Rick Porcello to the mound to contend with the prolific run-producing Yankee lineup. Porcello has proven to be a reliable arm in the rotation so far this season, but does anybody trust Pomeranz or Price on the mound in a pressure situation at Yankee Stadium? At the very least, it’s hard to feel great about it right now.
That all said, it’s not as if the Red Sox don’t have the talent to grab some victories in New York. Here’s hoping for a few more homers from Mookie Betts, who has soared to an incredible team-leading 13 so far. Here’s hoping that 21-year-old Rafael Devers finds the magic at the plate that he had at Yankee Stadium late last season. Here’s hoping that JD Martinez continues to put good swings on the ball, because when he does, the ball goes a long way. Here’s hoping that Andrew Benintendi and Xander Bogaerts can put together a string of hits and maybe a few RBIs. Here’s hoping that Jackie Bradley Jr. doesn’t come up to the plate with the game on the line. Here’s hoping that Pomeranz, Price, and Porcello can find a way to pitch the games of their lives this week (not counting on it).
If all of those factors come together, then the Red Sox might get out of the Bronx with a couple of wins. But considering the Yankees have won 15 of their last 16 (which I’ve now mentioned about six times in this column) and the Sox are just 8-7 in their last 15 games, which team would you say has the hotter hand right now? It’s the team that’s going to be playing at home, and will be backed by one of the toughest crowds in baseball – a crowd that just so happens to despise the Red Sox more than Michael Scott despises Toby Flenderson. I don’t feel good about Boston’s chances of escaping New York still in first place, but it’s a good chance to prove that they are still the class of the American League East despite that team in the Bronx going on a hot run.